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From skateboarders to volcanologists, Charlie Philips introduces the Folkestone Documentary Festival

The Folkestone Documentary Festival celebrates documentary in all its forms, from art to social issues with a strong focus on community collaborations at the heart of programming. This year’s festival will specifically focus on the buried histories of people of colour. Charlie Philips is The Head of Video at The Guardian and this year’s Programmer for the festival. Here, he gives a fantastic summary of the highlights guests to the festival can expect. 

Folkestone’s documentary festival returns for its 2nd edition in October, giving the town a chance to watch and discuss real stories from volcanoes to Bowie to Mexican feminism. It’s a chance to come to a seaside that’s 45 minutes from Stratford, watch documentaries that play with the whole range of the form, and then maybe have a little swim in the Channel if you fancy. 

The opening film is Fire of Love, the tale of the Kraffts, two groundbreaking volcanologists from the 70s and 80s who were also lovers and makers of brilliantly strange films of lava. Voiced by Miranda July, it’s a beautiful work by Sara Dosa, and essentially experimental style of film masquerading as a mainstream nature film. It’s so audacious!

We have 3 great music documentaries - Moonage Daydream, the kaleidoscopic new film about David Bowie which matches his cross-arts playfulness with a documentary that borrows from formats and storytelling styles just like he did ; Sirens, about the Middle East’s first all-female heavy metal band and their struggle to survive in music, life and love; and Rebel Dread, playing in partnership with local collective Origins Untold, which narrates the life story of Don Letts, legendary punk and ska producer, DJ and music video maker. The latter is accompanied by the festival’s unique communal meal, where we all sit and chew over what we’ve seen. 

Guest Programmer Melanie Iredale, Director of Birds Eye View programmed If I Could Wish for Something, the tale of Mexico’s feminist uprising, and the beautfiul attempt by trans artist La Bruja de Texcoco to pay tribute to it in song. It comes from love for the country’s feminists, and shows some necessary solidarity between the trans and cis communities.

And then there’s Stone Club, a Cornish collective dedicated to connecting us all more closely with our shared experience of the land, especially when it comes to very big old stones. They’ve programmed Sticks and Stones, featuring 6 films about jaunting in folk culture, including work by musicians Saint Etienne and Gwenno, Jeremy Deller, and the strange tale of a priest who annually marks long-forgotten parish boundaries, even when they’ve been lost to the sea. This screening is even dog-friendly, because you can’t speak about the land without speaking about four-legged buddies.

Other films feature the rise of women skateboarders and roller-skaters in Skate Dreams and Rolling Places; and extreme electrosensitivity in Electric Malady where an isolated man fears that even having a film camera in his house may cause him intense pain. We also cover migration and Ukraine at war, and in A Bunch of Amateurs, we meet Britain’s oldest amateur film club, based in Bradford, as they try and look after each other and their tumbledown headquarters. 

The festival also features industry masterclasses open to all, from Raising Films and The Doc Society, and is spread across the beautiful Quarterhouse and Silver Screen Cinema spaces. 

The festivals plays from October 21st-23rd. For further information and to purchase tickets, head here. 

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